Saul Bass’ Advice for Designers: Learn to Draw, and Create Beauty Even If Nobody Else Cares

It comes as no surprise that the man who created the title sequences for The Man with the Golden Arm, North by Northwest, Psycho, and Vertigo can tell you a thing or two about graphic design. He can even tell his established colleagues a thing or two about graphic design, as seen in the clip above. The man, of course, is Saul Bass, and this footage of him comes from a long-form interview conducted by designer and educator Archie Boston. In 1986, Boston paid a visit to Bass’ studio for a project called 20 Outstanding Los Angeles Designers, shooting a conversation that touched on many subjects, including the eminence’s main piece of advice for graphic design students. “Learn to draw,” Bass pronounces. “If you don’t, you’re going to live your life getting around that and trying to compensate for that.” Design, as observers of the discipline say, ultimately comes down to communication. According to Bass, aspiring designers fail to master drawing, one of communication’s most basic but richest forms, at their peril.

The clip just above goes deeper than giving practical advice, getting down to the very raison d’être of the graphic designer. Bass puts it unambiguously: “Aesthetics are your problem and mine. Nobody else’s. The fact of the matter is, I want everything we do — that I do personally, that our office does — to be beautiful. I don’t give a damn whether the client understands that that’s worth anything, or that the client thinks that it’s worth anything, or whether it is worth anything. It’s worth it to me. It’s the way I want to live my life. I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares.” Explore our related content section below to get an extensive idea of the fruits of Bass’ unbending desire to create beauty. You may or may not find, say, his reimagined American Bell office lady uniforms beautiful, but you can’t deny that they come from a mind wholly dedicated to aesthetics — and one that cared not just about the how of creation, but the why as well.

Related content:

Saul Bass Gives Ma Bell a Complete Makeover, 1969

Saul Bass’ Oscar-Winning Animated Short Ponders Why Man Creates

A Brief Visual Introduction to Saul Bass’ Celebrated Title Designs


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  • Russ Mason

    What a master he is. His graphics, title graphics, caught me immediately.

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